Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ Table of Contents
- Using MyAbandonware
- Game support
- Game Files
- Abandonware games
- Digital Rights Management (DRM)
Generic questions about the website, user accounts, download speed, etc.
Do I have to register?
No, you can download at full speed when not registered. If you register, we may give you updates by mail. Registering allows you to disable the adult screenshot filter and browse more games per page. Comments are anonymous for now, you can't own a nickname.
How can I help?
You can donate on our Buy me a Coffee page, all supporters can these browse the site without ads.
You need to be logged using the same email used for the donation ; contact us if you used another email.
We are also looking for archivists willing to help growing the game catalog, get in touch with us first though the contact page or social medias.
I can't download the game!?
We use a secure system to ensure the game files are not downloaded from another website. You have to display the game page first, then click on the download button. If you don't access our site in a fancy way, you should be able to download immediately and at the best speed we can provide.
Can you help me remember this game?
We can't help you remember a game, the best way is to browse the site and come by a familiar screen. You can also use the MobyGames Game Browser. You may try to ask on the /r/tipofmyjoystick subreddit.
Can you add this game?!
We may add games on request. We may add games of the 2000 era if they are not available through legal ways. If you make a request for upload, take some time to check its availability on digital distributors, usually GOG and Steam. Educational games are extremely hard to find and most licenses are still in use.
Some help to play old games - we don't provide specific game support though, you'll have to figure it out or ask for help on forums or Discord communities.
I can't play a game, can you help?
We do not provide game support through mail or social networks. Always start by reading our guide : how to play abandonware games.
The game asks for a code in the manual
A classic game protection in the 80s and early 90s was to ask for a specific word found in the printed game manual. Most of the time, our game archives are cracked, meaning you don't have to enter anything at all, or enter any characters, then hit enter.
Try to do this first, if it's still not working, you should google the game name + manual and use the scanned manual. Drop us a message then with the URL of the manual, we will upload it. If the manual can't be found, contact us, we'll see what we can do.
Can I just run an old game and expect it to work flawlessly?
Usually, no. But that ultimately depends on the game.
There are games that have great performance even without community patches and third-party applications (some example being Bookworm Adventures, Sonic Riders, etc.). But not all of them are like this and a whole lot of games might require additional tinkering in order to run well. For example, some games only run well in a certain color depth (e.g., Blip & Blop: Balls of Steel) or some games might need older DirectX libraries to work on modern versions of Windows (e.g., Shogo: Mobile Armor Division).
Because of this, it is recommended to check game pages thoroughly. Sometimes they may feature comprehensive and detailed instructions on how to install and run a game, or repacked versions that have all fixes by default.
What is a virtual machine?
There's a lot of technical (and sometimes unrelated) explanations about this topic on the web, but we'll try to explain this as simple as we can.
A virtual machine (commonly shortened to VM) is a digital version of a physical computer. In other words, a software that behaves like an actual computer. You can customize the VM by choosing what operating system it needs to run, how much RAM it's going to use or what GPU it should have and then it emulates all of them in a window. For example, you can set a VM to run Windows XP on launch to see it booting up in a window on your current operating system's desktop.
For common users, there are usually two reasons to use a virtual machine:
- Running old software or playing old games. Especially those that require a specific operating system ;
- Opening suspicious/untrusted files.
A detailed explanation of how VMs work and how to use them doesn't fit in this general FAQ, this will be incorporated in a future page.
Where else can I get tips and programs to try and fix an old game with?
PCGamingWiki is your best friend when it comes to troubleshooting Windows PC games and safely acquiring utilities to make older games work perfectly. Simply search the game's name and you will find every possible fix gathered together by the fans of that game.
If the game is/was available on Steam and GOG, it is also a good idea to check its guides and discussion sections on Steam Community and forums on GOG. Sometimes you can find valuable info on how to run a game there.
For DOS, Mac and other systems, you should check out our useful links pages.
We have several types of game files hosted on the website, here are some explanations about them.
What is a NoCD or a crack?
"NoCD" or a "Crack" as we call them nowadays is one or a series of modified game files that bypass the DRM, either by giving it false information about game ownership, or just skipping it entirely and directly running the game instead. We used to call them NoCD as back in the day, they were used to bypass the need to have the game disc inserted to play a game.
The existence of these files is what allows people to pirate a game. But while they can be used to not pay for games (something we do not condone or encourage), they are also the only way some older, abandoned games are playable nowadays. For example, let's say that you want to replay Curious George on your PC again. If you try to run it normally, the game will install StarForce drivers on your PC and cause Windows to get stuck in the boot process. The only way to run the game and not have your PC destroyed is to use a NoCD and skip StarForce DRM entirely.
What is a Keygen?
Keygen is the abbreviation of "Key Generator". These are programs that generate a product licensing key, such as a serial number, and allow you to activate your game using them. Some games, especially older ones, use serial numbers as a form of DRM. And usually in two ways:
- Requiring you to enter the serial number written on a card/manual or on the game's box while installing or after trying to run the game.
- Giving you a unique phrase (usually looking like jumbled letters and numbers), requiring you to use it in a webpage or send it with a SMS to some number, and then inputting the activation serial number that you get from them in the game.
Keygens were designed for the second type of serial-based DRMs that we mentioned above. They take the unique phrases that your programs give you, and use their algorithms to generate working serial numbers, eliminating the need to use the intended methods. Keygens are originally used in order to enable piracy, but at the same time, these apps are the only way to run certain old games as their developers never removed the DRMs.
Some examples being "James Cameron's Avatar: The Game" or any product that still uses Reflexive Arcade's software protection system. Another example is 80_PA which generates a key for games that used Securom PA, it required an internet connection to servers to do so but it’s no longer possible for some games due to servers shutting down (Tron: Evolution).
Can NoCD files and keygens be malicious?
NoCDs usually consist of modified game files, and keygen programming is also very similar to malware programming. Not only that, some protection software automatically mark all NoCDs and keygens as unsafe, regardless of whether they really are a disguised malware or not. Therefore, a lot of antivirus and malware detection software treat both of them as unwanted programs/malware and remove them. In most cases, we treat these as "False Positives"; detections that indicate a file has malware, while it doesn't.
But this does not mean every NoCD and keygen is trustworthy; as some of them can contain embedded malware. These types of infected files might actually work perfectly (instead of failing to work, as they usually do), but invisibly load the malware at the same time and infect your system. Because of this, users must exercise caution when it comes to NoCDs and keygens or use a virtual machine if they choose to.
What is a RIP?
A game's RIP version contains pre-installed game files in one folder, and in some cases containing NoCDs as well, so the game can be run with minimal extra tinkering. Most of the time you just extract the archive and play the game.
One very important thing to know about ripped games is that they usually came with cut content. Back in the day, internet connections were not as good as nowadays. So, a lot of ripped games had content like cutscenes, audio and extra content (such as wallpapers, original soundtrack, etc.) removed from them to reduce file size, resulting in an inferior experience.
In the early days, it was also common for games to play videos and music straight from the disc, in those cases a rip might not include those files and a tool like _inmm.dll might be needed.
Nowadays, file size is not an issue and most RIPs have everything in them. But some older ones might still have missing content. If the uploader has specifically mentioned that the archive you are downloading is a "Full Rip" or a "Pre-Installed" version of the game, it comes unaltered. If not, there's no way to find out but to download the archive and check it yourself.
What is a repack?
A repacked game is a game that has been compressed and sometimes split into smaller files to make it easier and faster to download and install. Basically, it's the ripped version of a game with NoCD (and sometimes even community patches) already included, but all of the game files are compressed to get the lowest file size possible.
Because of this, repacks come with either installers (.EXE) or batch files (.BAT) that contain the commands needed for decompression. It is worth mentioning that decompressing a game takes a lot of computing power and time, and your CPU usage will be at %100 while the game is installing. It won't be much of a problem for older games, but if you have a very old and slow CPU, you better not use repacks for newer games.
This neologism usually refers to games, but can be extended to every software loosing support on modern OS. Being unique cultural pieces, games are very prone to abandonware status.
What is an abandonware?
An abandonware is a game that is no longer sold by its company, in physical stores or online. Abandonware has never been a clear category in software, sometimes the software editor or publisher simply closed or have been bought. Many games get out of abandonware status now with GOG.com or Steam, and these games usually run instantly on modern computers. For more information on abandonware, you may visit Wikipedia.
Is it free? Is it legal?
We allow you to download old games for free, but we do not take any responsibility for downloads considered illegal in your country. Please try to buy the game first: GOG.com, Steam, Amazon or eBay may be selling your game. We never ask for credit card number, PayPal or anything.
Is it safe?
As with every file downloaded from the internet, check everything yourself, when possible with VirusTotal. Don't get too scared with few detections in VirusTotal, especially if show some imprecise names like "malicious", "generic" and the likes.
We usually scan every file with VirusTotal as a precaution, but limitations apply due to file size or format. We never modify the game archives in a malicious way, we may remove infected files from scene releases (game released by pirate groups). When in doubt, game pages will feature an easily visible text, warning users about the file and suggesting using a virtual machine. However, all of these precautions do not relieve you of your role as the sole protector of your data and the person responsible for the results of your actions.
Even if the person who has uploaded the file has already tested it, or the file has a VirusTotal report attached to it, it is your responsibility to decide whether to use them or not. Check every file before usage and refresh their VirusTotal reports, especially if a long time has passed since the last time they were scanned. If you are in doubt about using a game or software, either don't use it or if you have to, proceed at your own risk or use a virtual machine.
Do note that we are not warning you like this to make you paranoid. We are simply telling you to test the waters and exercise caution. If you have important data on your device and cannot just reinstall Windows anew in case something goes wrong, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Last note, we do not distribute malware, but we are not responsible for third-party programs installed after clicking on an ad displayed in our pages, be extra careful. You can disable all ads on the website lifetime through our donation page.
Can malwares escape a virtual machine?
Unless you have not isolated the VM and/or want to run newly created suspicious files, there's little chance of infection.
While malware capable of escaping VMs has been extremely rare, there's always a chance for infection if you do not secure your VM. To secure a VM properly before opening a suspicious app, you should not use any shared connections between the VM and your actual operating system, such as shared folders, shared clipboard, drag n' drop, copy and paste and networking. By doing this, most malware needs to use exploits in your virtual machine to get out. If not, malware has the chance to use shared connections to get to your actual operating system.
If you are going to use the VM to open old software, such as old games or keygens, just isolating the VM and having an antivirus software on your actual operating system will suffice.
Is there another way instead of using NoCDs to play a DRM-protected game?
It depends on the game you want to play. If it doesn't feature an infamous DRM and can simply be played by putting the disc in your optical drive without extra installations, you can use a virtual drive program such as DAEMON Tools, UltraISO, Alcohol 120% or any other similar app instead to make the game think the disc is inserted.
What is a virtual drive program?
A virtual drive is a software component that emulates a disk drive, such as an optical disc drive, a floppy disk drive, or a hard disk drive. It looks and behaves like a physical device to other programs and your operating system.
In simpler terms that are related to our usage, these programs can emulate a CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive and remove the need to have an actual physical one. To use these programs, you need something called a "Disc Image"; a complete copy of a CD/DVD/Blu-ray's contents and functions without any alteration, usually stored in one or more files. The most common formats for disc images are ISO, CUE/BIN and MDF/MDS. Macintosh systems also have their own exclusive disc image format, named DWG.
Now how to use them? You just simply give the location of a disc image to the virtual drive program (an action referred to as "Mounting") and the program loads it just like an actual drive loads a physical optical disc. A detailed explanation of how virtual drive programs work and how to use them doesn't fit in this general FAQ, this will get a special treatment in a future page.
Digital Rights Management (DRM)
Protecting digital creations against replication is a difficult task, game companies have used several solution to tackle this problem over the past decades.
What is DRM?
DRM (Digital Rights Management) is a technology that allows developers to control the level of access to their copyrighted material. In other words, it's something that a developer or publisher uses to limit what you can do with the product they sell you. In most cases, this limitation is about "who" can use the software.
Why DRM was created?
The need for Copy Protection and DRM goes as far back as 1975 and the release of the first commercially successful personal computer called Altair 8800. A small, new company called Micro-Soft created a computer program for this system, called Altair BASIC. Now this program was not a software as you know them nowadays; it was a punched paper tape that you would insert into an Altair 8800 computer, so it could read it.
As you would expect, someone took Altair BASIC, made 25 copies of it on pieces of paper and shared it in a computer club, while urging others to do the same. Bill Gates was not very happy about the fact they were not getting paid for their product, so he wrote a strongly worded open letter to the members of that club and accused the copiers of theft.
Fast forward to today, when developers and publishers use intricately made software to stop people who are not paying for them from using them.
Is DRM even necessary?
Is it understandable for developers and publishers of games to use DRM? Yes. Absolutely. You cannot bet on the goodwill of people to buy your games and give you money for your hard work. But the problem is, DRM can prove to be exceptionally anti-consumer and anti-preservation if handled improperly.
How can DRM be anti-consumer and anti-preservation?
A lot of developers and publishers do not remove the DRM after quite some time has passed since the release of their game, and that creates major issues.
To begin, we have the compatibility issues that directly affect the consumers. DRM programs usually do not get updated to work well on systems and hardware that get released years later. What does this mean? First, the DRM might get blocked by operating systems in the future, as is the case with Windows 10 and onwards blocking some DRM drivers (Safedisc, Starforce 1-4) and therefore stopping the games from running. Second, a DRM's older technology might affect your system negatively. An example is the StarForce DRM which can corrupt your Windows installation and make it unable to boot.
Next, we have the security concerns. A lot of DRM programs required (and some still require) kernel-level access. To say it simply, that is like giving someone the keys to your house. So, if someone finds a weak point in the DRM, they can wreak havoc on your system unless the maker of the DRM fixes them. This is especially concerning when it comes to older DRM, because many of their developers are not in business anymore. So, no one is going to fix the weak points. That means if you use them, you are opening all the doors to your PC. For example, that’s why Safedisc no longer works, the unupdated drivers stayed inside windows, so Microsoft disabled them in an update because they were a security risk.
Finally, all of the points above bring us to the preservation concerns. If a DRM has security issues and doesn't run on modern systems, or needs to connect to an online server that doesn't exist anymore to verify your purchase, that means the game it's attached to is unplayable (Securom PA, ActControl, GFWL SSA). Even if you try and keep the game files somewhere, no one will be able to run it unless the developers remove the DRM, or someone creates something called a NoCD or Keygen for that game.
What are some common DRM middleware?
Here we will provide some information about each of the more common DRM:
- SafeDisc: started in 1998, 4 different versions have been released until the discontinuation in 2009. On a SafeDisc media, several sectors at the start of the disc are intentionally corrupted (usually in the 807 - 11920 sector range), those bad sectors must be present to pass the check. Most media replication software could not burn those bad sectors on blank disks. Microsoft had a very similar technology named SmartE, and LaserLok is another clone.
- SecuROM: started in 1997, this media protection made by Sony uses software and hardware checks, making it extremely hard to mimic the original industry pressed media. A total of 8 versions of SecuROM exist, and later ones require online activation.
- StarForce: initially released in Russia, this DRM got popular in the Western countries with its third version in the mid 2000s. This DRM is dangerous in versions 3 and 4, as it will install particular drivers who can brick your computer. ActControl is a variant of Starforce used in a few games.
- Tagès: first used in 2001 for Moto Racer 3, original media were burned with a twin sector system quite difficult to replicate on a home burner. TAGES Solidshield is another DRM by the same French company, which requires online activation. A limited number of machines can activate a given game copy, and activation becomes impossible once the server goes offline.
- ProtectDISC: DRM used mostly on German games in the 2000s, also known as VOB, ProtectCD or ProtectDVD.
- Games for Windows LIVE (aka GFWL): an online gaming service with product activation, used between 2007 and 2013. Two types of activation exist for GFWL, both requiring a product key. The legacy one (Per-Title 5x5) won’t bind the game to a Microsoft account, whereas the Server-Side Activation (SSA) will link the game to the account through communication with a remote server. An additional layer of protection called Zero Day Piracy Protection (ZDPP) relied on an online check tool, now offline, to block pre-release game launches. More informations on PCGW.